It was a cheap and cheesy toy and it sounded fairly horrible... but what else would you expect from a toy manufacturer's attempt to cash in on the emerging drum machine market of the early '80s?

Someone at Mattel.... who are famous for their Barbie dolls and other children's toys... obviously had this idea that the company could (somehow) capitalise on this trend and make a few bucks.

To be fair to Mattel, though, whilst everyone else was scurrying to make drum machines that played patterns, the Synsonic was more like a kid's mini-Simmons that could be played manually using the four large velocity sensitive pads.

Of course, it was all analogue - no samples - and as a result, not one of the sounds was in the slightest bit realistic!

Those sounds were a kick (mostly click), a snare (burst of white noise), toms 1 and 2 (sine/triangle waves with a pitch sweep) plus a hi-hat and cymbal (more bursts of white noise) and these were triggered by the pads. Tom 1 was tunable using a thumbwheel control on the side of the unit.

Across the bottom were several buttons that would play these sounds at 1/4-note, 1/8th-note and 1/16th-note divisions of the tempo. However, by pressing combinations of these keys, you could play 'rock', 'waltz', 'off-beat' and ''shuffle' patterns. According to the manual, you should "experiment with different combination of drum control keys - you can create over 4,000 patterens using these keys". Hmmmm!

It was also possible to record your own patterns in a complicated and rudimentary fashion.

The Synsonic also sported a 5-pin DIN socket on the side but this is not to be confused with MIDI (which hadn't been born when this thing came out). Instead, you could wire up your own footswitches (or whatever) to trigger the sounds externally. Considering that the Synsonic was essentially a toy, someone at Mattel obviously had loftier aspirations for the thing by including this (almost) professional connectivity.

It could be powered from batteries or a mains adaptor. The Synsonic had a stereo output with a thumbwheel volume control on the side.

Of course, much like the Dubreq Stylophone, the Mattel Synsonic was a novelty product but, nevertheless, it was one that was that had obvious appeal and was actually used by quite a number of musicians, the most notable of which were probably Teutonic synthmeisters Kraftwerk. When you hear the sounds, you'll appreciate why.